How a Sci-Fi Screenplay Ended up in an Anthology of Short Stories

Back in 2015, before the invention of Brexit and Trump, I wrote a short screenplay called Automatic Drive. Inspired by the development of driverless vehicles, I imagined a future in which corporations responsible for automated highways used nefarious methods to keep the traffic flowing at all costs.

The script was well received by all who read it. It went on to the finals of the Reel Writers Screenplay competition and won a ‘Top Pick’ award.  However, I wasn’t thinking of budget when I wrote it. Production costs would be astronomical. I wrote it because I had the idea and needed practise writing screenplays. The chances of an unknown like me managing to persuade J.J. Abrams to spend a few millions dollars on a ten minute movie were pretty slim, so I shelved it.

A few years later, the Singularity50 contest was born. 50 stories by 50 authors set anytime over the next 50 years, as Artificial Intelligence evolves towards self-awareness. A timeline of events was established. This was designed as a guideline for authors and to inspire ideas. They could choose any point in this to set their story. One such event was fully automated cars. It seemed like destiny.

I digitally dusted off the script and converted it to prose format. Adapting my own screenplay (or any screenplay) was something I’d never attempted before. It was challenging but creatively rewarding. I was able to delve further into the character’s minds as well as describe this world in much more detail.  Converting a nine page script into 2,000 words seemed quite a straightforward target but my first draft was over 2,500 words. Drastic cutting was required and I wasn’t sure if it worked. This is where the feedback of the Create50 initiative is priceless! It was quite obvious what was working and what wasn’t from the initial reviews. I was able to improve the flow and fix some confusing elements for the second draft.

I also submitted another story called Brax’s Choice. I was pretty gobsmacked when both made it through to the shortlist. Weighing both up, I convinced myself that if one won it would be Brax’s Choice, as that story received more reviews and positive comments than Automatic Drive. However I’m just pleased one of them made it into the book. I’ve been in the shortlist for Impact50, Twisted50, Twisted50 Vol 2 and Singularity50 but this is the first time I’ve been one of the winners. This just proves that persistence does eventually pay off and you never know what piece of work may resonate with the right people.

A short script I wrote years ago, purely for my own writing experience, has ended up being published in an anthology. That in itself sounds like a sci-fi story.

Mark Renshaw

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